Thursday, November 27, 2014

Daily Zen Doodles by Meera Lee Patel

Daily Zen Doodles, features 365 doodling prompts and quotes to help you be more present in the moment.

I liked this book. The cover is just gorgeous!! It's not a book that you'd read cover to cover, so I haven't done that, but I have flipped through it a number of times and found some interesting quotes. The book directs the doodler to find a quiet place and expect to spend 20 minutes doodling on each page to complete the drawing. They are to "focus on the patterns", but not fixate on making it perfect. The main goal is to be in the present and not thinking about past or future worries. I've completed a few of the pages and I must say that I found it quite relaxing.

The doodling prompts are varied. They range from simple squiggly lines to recognizable shapes, like a leaf, snail, wolf, bell, tree, bird, etc. Some of the pages have a few patterns or doodles drawn in already to get the reader/doodler started, but most are essentially blank (except for the basic shape) to allow the doodler absolute freedom.

I like that the book is small enough to be carried in my purse or book bag. Doodling on the go!! I was worried at first that the middle pages of the book would be hard to doodle because of the binding. However, after trying a few it's really not that bad. Those who are used to doodling or drawing on scrap paper or single sheets of paper might need to make some adjustments while getting used to this format. Perhaps a coil binding would have been a better choice. It would also facilitate removing pages for hanging, framing and/or giving away.

There are lots of interesting quotes, mostly new-to-me. I didn't get a sense that the quotes and doodling prompts were necessarily connected, though. Certainly one could exist without the other. Having said that, I found one quote that I really liked:
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. - Kent M. Keith (page 99)

While I really liked this book, I do have one complaint. The use of the words "tangle" and "zentangle" in the introduction could be confusing. The author doesn't explain these terms and if I didn't already know these words with respect to drawing, I'd be wondering about what they meant. In my opinion, the word "doodle" is more appropriate for this type of art.

Recommended. For those who like to doodle and are interested in finding some "inspiration, relaxation, and mindfulness" in their daily lives.

For more information about this book, please visit the Ulysses Press website.

I'd like to thank Kourtney at Ulysses Press for this review copy.

Daily Zen Doodles by Meera Lee Patel, Ulysses Press, ©2014. ISBN 9781612433592(Softcover), 376p.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Needlework Tuesday - A finished project and more...

Needlework Tuesday is an occasional post detailing my needlework and/or crafting projects.

My goal this past week was to finish the seams on the Ragg Christmas Stockings and hang them on the mantle. I surprised myself with this one and actually got it done! I'd rather be knitting than weaving in ends and sewing up seams, so this was a bit of a challenge for me. Anyway, here's a shot of them:


This kit was purchased from Mary Maxim.   I miscounted the rows somewhere, so the middle one ended with a red-tipped toe, instead of white, but I don't care.  They are a little oddly shaped, but I love them!!! 

I also finished the other fingerless mitten/glove and worked on the matching hat, the next project from the Mary Maxim's Knit Club of the Month. The second fingerless mitten turned out okay, but it's a complete different colour than the first one. The pattern said that this would happen because of the variegated yarn that I was given. It still looks okay. The hat has been a little challenging. It's knit in a round on 5 needles. My needle set was a set of 4, so I decided to use a slightly smaller one from another set. It's not noticeable at all, so I'm continuing with it rather than going out and buying a whole new set of needles. The challenging thing is that for some reason working with 5 needles (stitches on 4 of them plus one working needle) isn't as stable as working with 4 (stitches on 3 plus one working needle). A couple of stitches have slipped off the needles and I managed to get everything tangled up more than once. It's not that enjoyable because I have to watch the stitches closely in case one of them makes a run for it again. It's quite a bit better now that I have a couple of inches done, but I'm still taking it slow and only doing a few rows a day. Here's a shot of that project:



I'll show the other mitten/glove and finished hat when it's done.  The yarn for this one is Mary Maxim's Milan. It's a light-weight (3) yarn that's 80% acrylic, 20% wool. It's really nice to work with. My only very small complaint is that the ball lost it's integrity and collapsed upon itself about 3/4 of the way through. However, it didn't end up in a tangled mess (like some other yarns I've worked with), so I'm not going to complain too much. I did move it around a little, so perhaps it's my fault. I just adore the colour selection, so if I happen upon a sale, I might just be making another project with this one.

My temperature scarf is all caught up. Here's a shot of my current scarf compared to one I did last year:

I think you can figure out which is which.  Here's a hint: the newest one is still on the needle.  ;)  In general, the colder temperatures have come a little earlier. For comparison purposes:
  • Orange 29C - 22C,
  • Dark Yellow 21C - 15C
  • Light Yellow 14C - 7C
  • Light Green 6C - 0C
  • Dark Green -1C - -8C
  • Bright Blue -9C - -15C
That's it for this week.   Speaking of knitting, do you see this news about knitting and Alzheimer’s risk? I don't have a plan for this week yet, but you can bet it's going to involve more knitting.

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts.   If you've done any crafting this week, please head over to Heather's blog and use the Mr. Linky to link up your post, so other can enjoy your creations.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Needlework Tuesday - This Week in Knitting

Needlework Tuesday is an occasional post detailing my needlework and/or crafting projects.

Look at me posting Needlework Tuesday on a Tuesday!!! This week I was busy knitting. Like that's a surprise, eh? I finished knitting the Christmas stockings, a kit I had ordered from Mary Maxim. All I have left is to sew the seams on two of the stockings and make the loops for hanging all three. Here's a shot of the one that's complete:
It's a little oddly shaped, but otherwise I'm quite pleased with it.

I was also working on the next project from the Mary Maxim's Knit Club of the Month. I finished one of the fingerless gloves and started on the second. Here's a shot of that:


It's knit in rounds so no seams to sew.  It's my first time knitting a thumb gusset, so it's a little rough and misshapen.  It's wasn't that fun knitting with so few stitches, but I got through it.  The colours are a bit odd, but the pattern said that this would be the case because the yarn is variegated.  The second glove is starting out red (like the thumb on this one).  Who knows how it'll end up??!!

The pattern has a few mistakes, which doesn't please me at all.  I caught two of them as I was doing them, so there's wasn't any ripping back.  The third one I couldn't do anything about.  One of the previous mistakes caused the ribbing to be incorrect in one spot.  I didn't bother looking into how to correct it.  I'll probably make the same "mistake" (on purpose) on the second glove so that they will at least be knitted the same.   

My goal for next week is to have all three stockings completely finished and hanging on the mantle. As well, I hope to finish the second fingerless glove and matching hat. I might also start one of the Christmas Mittens (another kit from Mary Maxim), but maybe not. I already have a couple of projects, two scarves, that I need to finish so I might just work on those.

After working on several of these kits, I'm left with the dilemma of what to do with the leftover bits of yarn.  They are different weights and made up of different materials (wool, acrylic, etc).  Not really enough to make anything big.  Perhaps some small Christmas ornaments or the like.  Or perhaps a scrappy scarf or small blanket.  I could also use some of it for a non-knitting craft project.  What do you do with your odd and ends?  

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts.   If you've done any crafting this week, please head over to Heather's blog and use the Mr. Linky to link up your post, so other can enjoy your creations.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Staged to Death by Karen Rose Smith

In Staged to Death, Caprice De Luca stages homes to look their best. This is especially helpful for those wishing to sell their homes. Her old friend Roz Winslow has recently asked her to revitalize her mansion in hopes of bringing in prospective buyers. When Roz's husband is found dead, stabbed with his own antique dagger, Caprice is determined to support her friend and find the killer.

I enjoyed this cozy mystery. All in all, it was quite a good book with an interesting easy-to-follow mystery. Some fascinating family dynamics rounded out the story. There were a couple of awkward spots in the writing, though. In a few cases, it was hard to tell which "she" was being talked about and I had to reread those sections. Also, there was one character introduction that was unusual. I don`t want to nitpick, so I won't go into details. [Note: I read an uncorrected proof of this book. Hopefully, those things were fixed before final printing.]

I found Caprice's home staging business interesting and I liked learning more about it. I didn't quite understand staging a home with a theme, especially one that's being sold, but to each his own, I guess. I also liked all of the side stories: retro clothing, animal rescue, cooking, antiques, party planning, etc. However, I think the mystery suffered a little and got lost in the side stories and Caprice's profession. Perhaps Caprice's interests should have been pared down a little so more focus could have been put on the mystery itself.

The author included a few recipes for the food that was mentioned in the book. All of them sound delicious. Since this book was about staging a house, though, I'm not sure why they were included. I would have been just as happy to see something related to the main part of the story. Some examples: staging tips; furniture arranging tips; real world statistics about home sales for homes that have been staged versus those that haven't been. That sort of thing.

This is my first book that I`ve read from this author. I was a little worried when I found out that she also wrote romance books. I was afraid that this book was going to contain more romance and less mystery. However, that wasn't the case. There was a bit of romance, but nothing over the top.

Recommended.

For more information about this book, please visit the Kensington Books website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Karen Rose Smith's website or Karen Rose Smith Mysteries.

Thanks to those nice people from Kensington Books for this review copy.

Staged to Death by Karen Rose Smith, Kensington Books, ©2013. ISBN 9780758284846(Advance Uncorrected Proof), 357p.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Needlework Tuesday - On Wednesday...again

Needlework Tuesday is an occasional post detailing my needlework and/or crafting projects.

Despite working on my knitting projects quite a bit this past week, I don't have a lot to show for it. At least not here on my blog. I was working on one project that I'm finally able to show. It's a "matching" scarf to the light toque I mentioned about a month ago. It's not really matching anymore because I had to use a few different leftover coloured yarns to get it to a length that was passable. It's still way too short; it only goes halfway down my chest.  It still works, though.  All of the yarns are variegated and while they don't really blend in, I think it makes an okay scarf. Most of it will be tucked into my jacket anyway.

It's made out of Kroy Sock Yarn and I really love how light it is. Too bad that some unseasonably cold weather has hit us and I'll be switching to a longer/heavier/warmer scarf. There's always late winter/early spring I guess.
 

I mentioned last week that my project from the Mary Maxim's Knit Club of the Month was due to arrive.  Well, it did!!  It's a matching hat and fingerless gloves in a beautiful yarn, Mary Maxim's Milan. I hope to start it this week. Here's a shot of the kit:

 

This shot really doesn't do the yarn justice.  It's the Umbria shade if you click on the yarn link above.  Once I start knitting with it, I'm sure the variegated colours will show up more.  I'll try to get a better photo then. 
 
I also finished (mostly) another of the Christmas stockings and started the third one.  Since the seams aren't done, right now they don't look much like anything so I'm hesitant to show them here.  I'll try to get at least one seam done for next week. 
 
Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts.   If you've done any crafting this week, please head over to Heather's blog and use the Mr. Linky to link up your post, so other can enjoy your creations.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Needlework Tuesday - On Wednesday

Needlework Tuesday is an occasional post detailing my needlework and/or crafting projects.

This week (or past two weeks) I've been working on a couple of knitting projects.

Some time ago, I had started a scarf and abandoned it because it wasn't working out.  It was too "light and fluffy" for winter.  Heather suggested that I try smaller needles (4.5mm instead of 5.5mm, as suggested on the pattern).  Thanks, Heather.  That worked great!

 
I'm about 2/3 done.  Sometimes the middle part doesn't lay flat (not sure why) and it's a little stiff, but the yarn I'm using was ripped out from another failed project.  I'm sure I'll be fine once I'm done and I wash it once or twice.  It's definitely way better on the smaller needles.   The pattern seemed a little complicated at first, but after about 8" or so, I have it down pat and no longer need to look at the paper pattern at all.    

Mary Maxim had a sale on Christmas items recently and I figured I'd order some stockings that I've been pining over for at least a year. Because the shipping is outrageously expensive I tacked on another item onto the order, Christmas Mittens, also to hang on the mantle, for just a little bit more.
 

 
I was really anxious to get started on the stockings and luckily I already had the correct needles.  They are knitted flat rather than in a round and with worsted weight yarn, so they are knitting up quite quickly.  One is mostly completed.  I just have to sew the seam and weave in the ends.  I've also started a second one.  Here's a shot of the fair isle section on the second one:




I had to look up how to do that section properly and found a few videos on YouTube.  The one I found most helpful and easiest to understand was for knitting in the round (which this isn't, so purling wasn't covered) and for righties.  I'm a lefty.   All in all, I think it worked out pretty good, especially on this second one.  Essentially, you knit one strand/colour continental style and the other English style so they don't get all tangled.  Mine still got tangled, but not that bad.  It'll take lots of practice to get it right.  If nothing else, I learned the difference between English and continental knitting.      

After ordering these two kits, I remembered my collection of needlework kits (not started, of course) that have been languishing in my craft area for years.   Perhaps after I get this knitting bug out of my system I'll attack one or two of those. 

Hopefully, next week I'll be able to show off my next project kit from the Mary Maxim's Knit Club of the Month.

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts.   If you've done any crafting this week, please head over to Heather's blog and use the Mr. Linky to link up your post, so other can enjoy your creations.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

An Evil Mind by Chris Carter

In An Evil Mind, the serial killer, Lucien Folter, is already in custody and it's up to Detective Robert Hunter to get him to give up the details about the killings and the location of the bodies scattered around the country. In the past, Hunter has had stellar success in catching other criminals and getting information from them. However, this time Hunter has met his match and must deal with a truly evil mind.

I really enjoyed this book, but I don't think I liked it as much as Carter's other thrillers. Because the killer had already been caught, Hunter spent a lot of time talking to him. Lots and lots of talking. Perhaps a little too much. However, I did enjoy the way the author brought in past events and the forays into the past. Like Carter's other books, this one was immediately engaging. The short chapters allowed Carter to build in lots of suspense. Also like Carter's other books, this one is quite graphic and not for the squeamish.

I don't think I've read too many books where the killer is in custody when the story begins. Knowing who the killer is, having him in custody and then getting the details of the killings and locations of the bodies is sort of like working backwards. It's such a fascinating concept. I loved it!!

After reading a few of the previous books featuring Hunter, I was thinking he was perfect and definitely smarter than everyone else he has to deal with. However, for the first time, we are seeing some small cracks appearing in his solid armor. Did this case get under his skin so much that he's lost his advantage? Were the cracks there all along? Maybe he's not so perfect after all.

Carter mentions at the beginning of the book that it's based on real facts and people he met while he was working as a criminal behaviour psychologist. I would have loved it if he expanded upon this more. I can't imagine it was all one case, right? I would also have loved him to say which parts are fiction.

I also loved that this story had a personal connection for Hunter. That connection is revealed quite early in the book, but I don't want to give anything away so I'll leave it at that.

Carter's resume never ceases to amaze me. He was a member of the Michigan State District Attorney's Criminal Psychology team, then became a rock musician and is now an author.

Highly recommended. Not my favourite book of his, but still a really great book. I'm really looking forward to reading more books by this author.

For more information about this book, please visit Simon & Schuster's UK website.

For more information about the author and his other books, please visit Chris Carter's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Simon & Schuster UK for this review copy.

An Evil Mind by Chris Carter, Simon & Schuster ©2014. ISBN 9781471132193(Uncorrected proof), 484p.